The H-Town Countdown, No. 13: DJ Screw's 3 N' Tha Mornin' Pt. 2 (Blue)
Roughly 84,000 rap albums have been released in Houston since 1989. We're counting down the 25 best of all time every Thursday. Got a problem with the list? Shove it. Just kidding. Friendship. Email it to email@example.com. DJ Screw 3 N' Da Mornin, Part 2 (Big Tyme Records, 1995)
While researching the Countdown, we came across two very distinct opinions regarding this album; naturally, they were almost diametrically opposed to one another. People either argued that it should be placed somewhere near the No. 4 spot - this was most often the position of rappers who knew Screw personally, hip-hop heads over 30-years-old, white music intellectualists and the homers over at the Texas Takeover forum, where Screw serves as the mascot. Pretty much everyone else argued that it shouldn't be included at all. As preposterous as the latter opinion initially feels, there's a certain amount of logic to it. Essentially, two requirements that must be satisfied to qualify a rap album as an actual rap album, thus qualifying it for this list. First is that it overtly revolves around one single act; this makes up about 96 percent of all albums. Second, if it does not feature one specific act - we're talking compilation albums here - it must be comprised of all original songs. This is why something like Swishahouse's The Day Hell Broke Loose would work while a similarly themed Greatest Hits album wouldn't. Those who argued against 3's inclusion, whether they realized it or not, took issue with it not meeting either of the two requirements. And technically, this is absolutely correct. It's also fatally flawed, but we'll get to that.
The lyricist lineup of 3 N' Tha Mornin' includes no less than 11 separate MCs. It does not blatantly highlight any specific artist, let alone DJ Screw. There aren't even any "We the best!"-style interruptions from him, a la DJ Khaled. For anyone not familiar with Screw's style, or more specifically, with the purpose of his style - which turns out to be way more people than you would possibly imagine - he hardly seems involved at all. This obviously isn't isolated to this album. There are more than 200 Screw tapes available for purchase, which means that thousands had to have been recorded. Percentage-wise, for all of the music DJ Screw touched, his actual voice is barely ever even heard. He's like Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects before you found it was really Kevin Spacey the whole time (totally didn't see that coming). Anyhow, 3 fails the first requirement handily. And with regards to the second requirement, it crumbles under scrutiny as well.
Where Screw's famed grey cassettes were collections of freestyled rhymes, several of the songs featured on this album are on separate albums altogether; E.S.G.'s "G-Ride" is from Sailin' Da South, Botany Boys's "Cloverland" is from Thought Of Many Ways, and so on. At best, 3 can loosely be classified as a compilation. At worst, it's no different than when someone culls together a bunch of songs they like, then uploads it to Dat Piff and calls it a mixtape. But this shortcoming isn't certain, so it seems like there might be some argumentative leeway. Ironically, it's the first condition where this album makes itself a viable selection. 3 N' Tha Mornin' isn't theoretically about DJ Screw, sure, but that's because no Screw tape was ever singularly about him. That's sort of the point, what made him so transcendent. He served less as the protagonist of each tape he made and more as the literary device; often times, that's far more important than the actual narrative, particularly within rap music (and probably hair metal). To argue that this album shouldn't be included in this list because Screw wasn't rapping on it is like arguing that Herman Melville wasn't a good writer because he didn't specifically mention himself in Moby-Dick. Of course 3 N' Tha Mornin' gets included in the top 15. It helped shaped Houston's entire hip-hop culture. That's why the music never came off as feeling purposely contrarian, even though it was doing the exact opposite of what the East and West coasts were doing at the time. The slowed-down pace of Screw music makes it feel like it'd always be languid or sluggish, but that's inaccurate. Screwed music is an undeniable force which, by extension, makes DJ Screw an undeniable force. Also, this was the first DJ Screw album to get major distribution, giving national exposure to many locally established MCs. That's largely the reason it was chosen over any of the other 9,000 tapes he made. So there. Screw was the aural king of populism, the founder of a wildly meditative subgenre of rap that did more than just net the zeitgeist of his time; it created it. History has (rightly) polished him into a Southern rap demigod. If this was a countdown of the 25 Most Influential Rap People In Houston, he certainly wouldn't have landed any lower than second. But here he sits firmly at the 13th spot. We can't ignore the rap-album prerequisites entirely; if this list gets rewritten in 40 years, however, this album will invariably be placed several spots higher. We can not place this album any higher, and we can not place it any lower. And we are fully prepared to eat a ton of shit for that from both sides. Even though we are absolutely correct. Bonus: We nabbed a few [sic'd] bites from the gentlemen over at the aforementioned Texas Takeover music forum regarding the importance of this album.
"You may have heard DJ Screw or slowed-down music before this release, but 3 'N The Mornin Part 2 (blue version) was officially the start of a movement ... and an introduction to the Screwed Up Click. From the intro, ESG opens a window to the Southside of Houston, TX, where they "sip syrup, swang and bang, and jam nothin' but that Screw." "Most of the featured artists had already made names for themselves. But up-and-comers Lil Keke and Big Moe stood out. Keke with his classic "Pimp The Pen" and Moe with his soulful crooning about his love for codeine. This lead to the defining sound of Houston rap music and paved the way for many artists to come."
"I remember I was in Sundance Music in San Marcos, TX around 95-96 and I stumble upon this DJ Screw 3 in the Mornin cassette that was made in Houston, TX and at the time I was used to listening to commercial music like Westside Connection and 2Pac. I tripped out cuz I had never seen any music from Houston besides Geto Boys (which I was never a huge fan of) and then I started to read the back which goes a lil something like 'Blood Bones and Tears Slow Screw of Fears....' and I purchased it. "That was a life-changing day I will never forget! After that, I was officially "screwed out". My cousin from Austin saw me with that tape later and he was like 'How you know bout that Screw?' He got me deeper into the shit and pointed me in all the right directions. "In my opinion this tape helped shape Houston into what it is today, Home of Screw Music, Screwston, whatever you wanna call it. The only rappers that were not influenced by Screw were the ones that were already around like Geto Boys, UGK (which later showed the influence of), and probably Street Military. To not have this tape in the Top 10 of your countdown makes me really wonder who the hell is in the Top 10?"
"that intro... "best intro ever "this is not just screwed and chopped, because it's really a MIX, without a tracklist like most chopped cds nowadays "crazy shit "only big fail on the album was mixing I Wanna Be Free into Murder That He Ritt "but anyway, great album"